We finally got some good rain up where I live (rain bands don’t always uniformly spread around rain here), and we are about to get two days of off-and-on rain from a big storm heading up the coast. It is moving slower than predicted this morning I think—which might mean we get more rain than predicted.
No complaints here—we need the rain.
Due to the wind, I think, the grass dried out enough for me to sneak in a mowing of already-very-long grass mid-morning—after I ran an errand and took AC for a hard run chasing his ball. (Two days of rain will NOT be easy for this active guy.) It is very cool sweater-and-sock weather—and the wind meant no black flies—so this mow was a delightful hour outside. See how dense and dark Maine woods get in the summer? I love that about them.
The daylilies lining the crest of the very difficult hill were planted last spring by Leslie Smith (Smith Tractor), who dug them out of this overgrown bed in the picture below at the far left of the hill—which freed up space for the new blueberry bushes I planted last spring too. All of the transplants came back and are now increasing in size.
Mulch will come next for these now-weeded beds. You may recall that I’m just letting the hill bed go to whatever wants to grow in these—except for trees and except for the strip of bed I’ve carved out of the perimeter. It’s too hard to keep that bed weeded—the slope is terrific and there is a sheer drop-off at the edge. The natural growth, like the Jewel Weed and the Bishops’s Weed, keeps erosion from starting. And the transplanted daylilies are the wild ones, so they will fit into the “natural” look. I have moved some plants in this vein—like Rudbekia and some Gooseneck Loosetrife—into this bed, and it is all “taking” well. I think I’ll look for some Queen Anne’s Lace seed this year to throw into the bed. It has a great taproot and seeds profusely. There are, down the hill, some rugosa roses and bay shrubs.
Where the bed starts to get shady down on the far right, I have put in some other plants over the years—there are two established hydrangeas, some Astilbe, some hostas, a Bleeding Heart, and so forth.
My little lawn is easy to mow and weed whack except for this hill—which is way steeper than it looks in this picture. But, I go slow and manage it. The hill is steep enough that I can’t mow a straight path along the curve, but instead, have to let the mower go up and down the slope from the top. The exercise is great!
Now, after eating lunch while I play Word2 for Friends , the rest of the day will be mine to sew.
Lunch is a salad with my lettuce and the last of the spatchcocked chicken. I’ll be buying another chicken very soon now to spatchcock! The bones are now all in the freezer for a broth after the second chicken’s bones are ready.
Sometimes what I love most in my garden is what Mother Nature designs.
Oh, I put in the ingredients, but then “life happens.”
Here, Veronica creeping blue speedwell, Lily of the Valley, and Star of Bethlehem surround a peony. All are thriving and have made the prettiest picture which is just on the left to my lower porch step to the low deck that is my front porch.
Star of Bethlehem is a small bulb that can be really invasive. The speedwell is no slouch about spreading either. And the Lily of the Valley is taking off in this spot.
I harbor a family memory—which I’ve talked about before on this blog—of my grandmother’s Star of Bethelem. Decades and decades ago as a young wife she found some of this plant down in the Flint River, Georgia, swamp and brought them to her garden. Now they cover the front lawn when they bloom in the spring—a field of white flowers. Or they did back in the day. Her home in Georgia is now owned by other people, and I have not been back there since my mother’s funeral in 2009. But my love of my childhood visits to my people in Georgia is part of what drove me to find and move to Maine in 2004.
Here’s some info on Star of Bethelem. It is part of the lily family and related also to wild garlic. The green foliage appears in early spring, then dies back, which you can see in the pic, and then the white flowers emerge. That reminds me of those pink mystery lilies that do the same thing, but in the fall.
The lettuce in the cold frame is close to bolting. I’ve cleared one side—and have delivered this beautiful lettuce far and wide to friends here. I get so much pleasure out of sharing this lettuce bounty. You may recall that I set up the cold frame in the late fall with lettuce seeds and cover it for the winter. At some point in the spring, it sprouts and grows, with me taking the cover off and on to harden it off until the weather is more reliable. I’ll put in more compost and replant soon now: filet green bush beans on one side and maybe a zucchini plant on the other side.
I’m nearing the end of the spring weeding and general flower-bed cleanup, planting, and transplanting. One more big push should do it. One is never done with weeding, of course, but this very big outside job is nearly done, and I’ve enjoyed my days outside and my body likes the physical work.
I started with the strawberry bed—and it needs a another weeding pass again. The fruit is starting to emerge and set now. Other than weeding and some thinning later in the summer, the strawberries take care of themselves. I have not had to replace strawberry plants for some years now. They will get some mulch in the next few weeks.
The new raspberries I planted last spring are thriving. I had to pull up a lot of suckers that were claiming new territory outside their bed limits. There will be fruit this year for sure.
The house and garage shingles have not been restained for the past 17 years, so it is time. That will happen this summer. The plan is to just use a natural, protective stain—which the shingles had when new.
The garden bench is feeling really rickety these days. Maybe I will replace it this summer. The Amish are making some really nice outdoor furniture pieces these days, and they weather really well here. This time of year, I really love to take a warm drink out to that bench and just to sit quietly in the sun and admire all the life in my garden.
We’ve had a cool spell, which I’m also enjoying. The cool nights make for fabulous sleeping, with all that fresh air coming through the cracked window at the head of my bed and a warm quilt over the bed. Luscious!
The black flies are on the wane now. And I’m crossing my fingers about what will happen in my yard with the dreaded brown tail moth/caterpillar. They have emerged elsewhere, but not here yet. Last year, they were bad when the blueberries were fruiting. That time is still some weeks away.
And best of all, I awoke this morning to some steady rain, which we needed in the worst way.
The cooler temps slowed down the grass a bit, but the rain will supercharge it again.
I saw an article from The Washington Post the other day that demonstrated how to spatchcock a whole chicken.
Spatchcock is a term I never heard until very, very recently. Don’t even ask… As much as I cook, how could I have NOT heard about or tried this roast chicken preparation before now???
Anyway, I tried it last night. And WOW! I’ll never go back to roasting a whole chicken again—unless, I suppose, I’m doing several chickens and need the space in the oven? Never is a strong word.
The process was truly easy—as long as one has really good kitchen shears, which I do. I did an earlier blog post on mine last year, and I really like them. They come apart for cleaning too. You can see that post here: https://louisaenright.com/?s=A+Kitchen+Treat
So, I put fresh sage leaves under the skin and topped the chicken with fresh tarragon, garlic, more dried herbs, sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. It cooked in an hour—it would have been shorter if I’d used the convection oven I’m sure, but I had a Zoom meeting to attend and didn’t want to hang around the oven to make sure the chicken wasn’t burning, but browning. The whole house smelled…divine.
Here’s the link to the WAPO article, but I’m sure if you googled, you’d find lots of videos of how to spatchcock a chicken.
This is the second year that Phoebe and her mate have built a nest over the outside light at the kitchen windows.
It is a shallow, messy little nest—full of moss in the construction—which I discovered from last year’s nest when removed. I just read that Phoebe may reuse her nest in subsequent years, so I’ll leave it in place this fall. And in between, other birds, like barn swallows, may use it too. A Phoebe pair may raise 1 or 2 broods a year, and incubation takes about 16 days.
Dad can be heard most of the day, singing the distinctive “pheeee bee” call out in the woods, while Phoebe sits and sits.
I checked this morning—she’s still on the nest.
For me, spring does not arrive until the Phoebe pair arrives and begins calling around the house, woods, and gardens. They go south for the winter but return very early in our spring.
I took a day off from intensive gardening yesterday as the day was meant to be hot, humid, and full of thunderstorms. We finally got some rain last night, but I’m not yet sure how much landed here. It did get hotter than it has been, but the wind was cool too. AC didn’t last long chasing his ball at the athletic field. I didn’t take him for a swim as it takes his thick coat a long time to dry, and with thunderstorms predicted, I didn’t want a wet dog on the quilt I just washed that covers the seat of the downstairs sofa in front of the tv.
I spent the morning quilting “Wild Thing” and finished just after noon. I loaded her on the longarm about a week ago and had started quilting—making a few passes then.
I used the clam shell groovy boards—which proved to be another exercise in frustration as the tip of the stylus that rides the boards to make a perfect pattern was worn down—so it made some of the patterns wobble and it would jump the groove easily. Ugh! The replacement tip I had did not fit my stylus—and apparently there is no longer a replacement tip that would work in my stylus that came with this machine.
Obviously I am not going to replace the stylus at this point as the new Innova will come some time this summer. But this is the last quilt I will put on this longarm.
The quilting, which should be perfect…isn’t. But the overall look of the quilting does work well. It is what it is, in the end. I do like how the bright aqua thread I used looks on both front and back.
You can see the wild backing I used in the above picture—which works color wise and was 108-wide, which I wanted. For whatever reason, I was just not up for piecing a back for this quilt and did not find a backing I liked locally.
Here’s what the groovy boards look like—I have four of the pattern so I don’t have to move a board for a wider quilt.
Discovering that I could use painters tape to hold them in place is a grand new discovery!!
These boards allow one to do a traditional quilting pattern like clam shell or Bishop’s Fan without using a computer program which I don’t have—and the quilting goes fast and does not require the intense concentration needed to follow a pantograph line free hand.
Plus, I just discovered that the Urban Elementz web site carries a full line of groovy boards of all sizes and types.
I put the quilt room back to order in the afternoon and cut the binding strips and label, which I hope to sew and install today.
And now I will return to playing with the three “play” projects on my design wall. And I’ll share those in a few days. I just need to make a few more blocks in each project first.
I am just in from working in the garden all morning.
I grilled two little lamb chops to go on my lunch salad—the grill is just at my kitchen door, and it doesn’t take but a minute or two to fire it up and let it heat.
The lettuce is from the cold frame—which is overflowing with lettuce goodness. I’ve been happily taking bunches of the lettuce to friends. And now I’ll include some fresh herbs as the chives are ready to cut.
This salad also has leftover halved boiled Brussel sprouts, carrot, a yellow pepper, cucumber, Vidalia sweet onion, and mint, regular and garlic chives, and some tarragon. I top everything with salt, dried herbs (dill and Penzey’s Sunny Paris mixture, and drizzles of a really fine olive oil from Organic Roots. (I can’t do vinegar.)
AC killed one of the garter snakes who live here two days ago. I thought the snake had escaped him, but he apparently dogged it out into the open, where he shook it. I found the carcass down on the rocks in the lower wall in front of the house the next day. I knew he’d gone back after it as he had streaks of blood on his coat and there were no marks on him.
These garter snakes are such pretty little creatures, with their vivid green stripes and bits of red here and there. Their presence signifies one has a healthy garden I think.
I’ve saved two more from the jaws of death—one yesterday and one this morning. One, if it is the same snake. And this time I made sure each snake was in a good hiding place.
I spent a chunk of the morning watering. It is so dry. And when I came in for lunch, there was an alert on my phone about a line of thunderstorms heading our way.
I hope so. It is getting dark. I brought in my buckets, shoes, and gloves just in case.
It is so easy to keep neat looking. My longer hair was just a mess, all the time!
And look! I can “look” without glasses after the cataract surgery this winter. I only need glasses for fine print or really “up close” small things. So, I’ve just scattered them all over the house. What a blessing!
I worked really hard Sunday on household and garden tasks. The 4 kayacks and the girl’s bike went out of the garage, so that very big job is all but done. I’m sure I’ll find more small things that need to be rehomed, but all the big items are now gone and will be used and enjoyed by others. And there was a really nice catch-up visit with friends who took the kayaks and the bike.
I painted the back of the entry closet doors that were dingy and dirty after 17 years, and installed the new doorknob on a metal screw that fits perfectly—thanks to Shane Chontos getting out the stripped screw and cutting down the new one for me. I mowed—the grass was lush and long! And I put up the windchimes—so now I have been hearing them tinkling and calling me to come outside.
In celebration, yesterday I took a day off and played with AC and sewed. We went over to the big field at our Snow Bowl—a favorite spot.
AC runs with his whole heart, and he’s really fast. I think he thinks that getting the ball and bringing it to me is his “work.” He is always looking for ways to “work” with me—which recently has been showing even more as when I weed, he stands with his nose over my hands and will grab a big clump and help pull it out and shake it free of dirt. I’ve never had a dog be so engaged with me in ways like this dog is.
He is tired in this picture, but you can see he can be out with me with no leash and will stay right with me. In the woods when we hike, he branches out, but if I call him, he comes immediately, and he never lets me get where he does not know where I am.
It was warm yesterday, and after running so hard, I thought I’d take him over to the water and see if he’d like to cool off. Oh my—he immediately went into the deeper water where he would not venture last summer. I think he’s still keeping his feet where they can touch, but he was actually swimming in places too. His joy is contagious, for sure.
As he was totally wiped out afterwards, after lunch I got in some really good sewing time—also possible as I had leftovers that meant I didn’t have to cook. Here is AC on his bed beneath the longarm machine.
The design wall is filling up again with such fun projects—I’m playing with 3 at the same time. One will become a leader/ender project I think—and is using up scraps. The other two are really fun blocks—and they are going along well.
I’ll put up pics when I get a few more blocks done. Today, though, is cleaning and laundry day. And after my coffee, I’ll get right to that weekly job. And I still need to weed wack all the borders outside after mowing Sunday.
“Bokeh” is a photographic term for when one manipulates the camera so that it makes the background fuzzy in a picture. In my mind, the darker colors are the “background” here—they are softer and less sharp in that way, though one could easily think that what is also interesting is how all the squares are like the pixels in a photo.
I really enjoyed making this quilt—and after I had an acceptable piece to say I tried it—I went back and made it all bigger as I was not ready to stop at a wall hanging size This one is now a nice lap size, and I used pretty much all the fabric. I added white and cream to the palette.
This project was one of this year’s The Color Collective online classes, hosted by Amy Newbold of Sewtopia. Tara Faughnan is the designer, and she picks the palette colors for each of the six yearly projects that she teaches to TCC students. I think this palette is particularly nice. (A guest designer staffs the 7th month, and this year that person is Latifah Saafir.)
I quilted from the front with an organic kind of doodle—using a wheat/gold thread that worked for the front and the back. I added in lots of curves to soften all the straight lines.
The backing is an architectural pattern—and I would not have thought of using this warm color until I had the top with me in a local fabric store. It was so much more interesting than any of the other colors represented in the quilt.
I am now working on Latifah’s project, and it is really fun.
And look what I had for lunch today!
This lettuce started out late last fall—as it was seeded into the cold frame and covered for the winter. Then, there is that moment in early, early spring when the light is changing, when the snow is melting, and when I walk by the cold frame and can see green down in the dark earth. It is still a long time before the cold frame cover can be removed permanently, not just on warm days, and before I can start harvesting the lettuce and sharing it with friends. Underneath the egg is a bit of leftover rice/lamb/veggie stir fry, and the white is a cottage cheese that I can tolerate on low histamine days.
These are the last of the daffodils, and the first of the very fragrant viburnam white “balls.”
The cool spring has been really good for the daffodils and forsythia this year.